How to increase your vocabulary in any language

Building a better vocabulary, whether in your own language or a foreign language, has never been simpler. Reading a daily newspaper is the first port of call; a fun way of learning more words in a spontaneous fashion, about a variety of different topics, without it feeling too much like homework. Often, the meaning of the word is evident from the context, so this is an easy way to pick up new vocabulary without having to specifically go looking for it. Another great way is to use a thesaurus, whether it be electronic or paper, looking up synonyms for those words that we use all the time and which have become a bit repetitive and boring. This is an exciting way to improve vocabulary and liven up letters, essays or even everyday conversations. Finally, know your roots! At least half of the words in the English language are derived from Greek and Latin roots. Knowing these roots would help us to grasp the meaning of words before we look them up in the dictionary. For example, knowing the roots of the word ‘philosophy’ tells us what it means; the ‘sophy’ suffix is related to knowledge and the ‘phil’ is related to love. Similarly, ‘philanthropy’ contains the same ‘phil’ for love, while ‘anthropy’ comes from the same Greek root that gives us ‘anthropology’ – ‘logy’ meaning study of any kind, of ‘anthropos’, humankind. To help you on your way to knowing your roots, here’s a table with some of the most common ones:

Some common Greek and Latin roots:

Root (source) Meaning English words
aster, astr (G) star astronomy, astrology
audi (L) to hear audible, auditorium
bene (L) good, well benefit, benevolent
bio (G) life biology, autobiography
dic, dict (L) to speak dictionary, dictator
fer (L) to carry transfer, referral
fix (L) to fasten fix, suffix, affix
geo (G) earth geography, geology
graph (G) to write graphic, photography
jur, just (L) law jury, justice
log, logue (G) word, thought,
monologue, astrology, biology, neologism
luc (L) light lucid, translucent
manu (L) hand manual, manuscript
meter, metr (G) measure metric, thermometer
op, oper (L) work operation, operator
path (G) feeling pathetic, sympathy, empathy
paed (G) child paediatrics
phil (G) love philosophy, Anglophile
phys (G) body, nature physical, physics
scrib, script (L) to write scribble, manuscript
tele (G) far off telephone, television
ter, terr (L) earth territory, extraterrestrial
vac (L) empty vacant, vacuum, evacuate
verb (L) word verbal, verbose
vid, vis (L) to see video, vision, television


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